Being heavy-handed isn’t entirely bad. It means you have powerful hands -- which can be quite painful (in hair culture). Here’s what helps me. First…
Understanding that you’re heavy-handed will help you be more aware of the power in your hands. Regularly check-in with the person whose hair you are doing to ensure that the pressure you are applying is just right.
2. Find The Best Position
Due to the height difference, standing while your child (or client) sits can put undue pressure on their head. If you prefer to stand, use a height adjustable chair or pillows to prop them up. Standing while they sit does make it easier for you to maneuver around for better hair results.
If you prefer to sit, make sure to find a seated position where your body feels super relaxed. Meaning your back is supported and there’s no stiffness or movement restriction in your neck, shoulders, or wrists.
3. Slow Down
While everyone loves a quick stylist, a healthy crown is more important. Make sure your child (or client) is comfortable and take your time in creating your masterpiece.
4. Detangle As You Go
The goal (of a heavy-hander) is often a neat style. You can create a neat style by detangling the hair as you go instead of pulling tighter.
For example, braiding coily hair naturally creates a gorgeous textured braid. But if your goal is a smooth braid, it's important to thoroughly detangle the hair and to continue to detangle as you go.
5. Switch Styles
If you are heavy-handed try plaits (box braids) instead of corn rows. Box braids and plaits only apply pressure at the start of the braid, whereas cornrows tug along the scalp.
Similarly, multiple pony tails can create multiple pain points. Try doing a single bun.
6. Practice Mindful Hair Dressing
Since hair styling involves tons of repetitive motion, it's easy to get distracted without it interfering with the result. Meaning, the hair-doing process can be completed without thinking about it.
If you watch a braider, they are not constantly thinking about their under or over-hand patten. Braiding (after years of practice) has become part of their natural movement vocabulary, like riding a bike or driving a car. Once you learn to braid, it’s easy to become distracted applying too much pressure or pulling too tight.
7. Master Fine Motor Skills
I thought the following video of a heavy-handed artist was a great illustration of how heavy-handedness impacted his artwork. He attributed heavy-handedness to lack of control.
Similarly, hair dressing is an art that uses tiny muscles and movements of the hands, fingers and wrists known as fine motor skills.
Braiding (in particular) requires 3-finger-grasping, rhythmic coordination, weaving, and drawing parts.
The braider may be in the process of mastering these skills or may have a hand condition that interferes with the execution of them. For example, hair noobs and stylists with arthritis can overcompensate (for the lack of fine motor skills) by pressing or pulling harder.
8. Gather The Right Tools
There are so many different combs, brushes and hair tools. Using the wrong hair tool can cause a stylist to use force (instead of technique) to get the desired results. For example, parting the hair with rat tail combs creates super neat parts because of the thin metal tip glides along the scalp. There are also finger parting tools like this one, that make parting feel more natural. But if a hairdresser is using a bulky wide tooth shower comb it may be harder to properly section the hair.
Below are the results of me being unintentionally heavy-handed on our 5 year old. Do you notice anything concerning? Scroll right to find the 4 spots that concerned me.
Did you find the same ones? I don't remember our daughter complaining when I was doing her hair. But as soon as I noticed it, I took the bands out and allowed her scalp to relax and heal. I also no longer do this style.
I consider myself an advocate for gentle hair care, but am super heavy handed. There have even been times I've braided my own hair and given myself an excruciating headache. Despite doing hair for over a decade, I still needed to figure out how to be more gentle, especially with our children's scalps.
While heavy-handedness can create styles that appear to be super sleek and long-lasting, it can also lead to brushing too hard, braiding too tight or simply handling the head too harshly.
Reactions to heavy-handedness can include…
Some people get used to heavy-headedness and may not be vocal during the hair-doing process. After the style is completed, signs of heavy-handedness include…
Painful or sensitive scalp
Folded skin on scalp
White bumps on scalp
Missing hair from chronic tight pulling
Hair so tight it pulls back eyes, and/or
Hair so tight it restricts movement like bringing your chin to your chest
We hope this post helps you see heavy-handedness a little differently. What tips would you add to help our fellow heavy-handers?
Until next time...
Love The Journey,